It's rare to come across a cult movie that I can not only unreservedly recommend but that I feel fully justifies its cult reputation. Of course, maybe the cultists like the movie for the wrong reasons. But with The Shepherd of the Hills it's hard to find wrong reasons. Everything about the picture is so right. The luminous performances: Wayne, perfectly cast, giving one of the best of his entire career; Carey, so winning and sympathetic, making the title role so memorable it will become a point of reference for the rest of your life; Marjorie Main, equally unforgettable as the blind woman who sees too much too quickly; Beulah Bondi, never more embittered or meaner-spirited as the real head of the Matthews clan; Marc Lawrence, giving the finest and certainly the most unusual study he ever attempted as the pathetically inarticulate Pete. So many others - Ward Bond who has the realistic fight with Wayne, Fuzzy Knight as the singer, Olin Howland as the squirrelling storekeeper... And all brilliantly directed by Henry Hathaway too. Henry, as I've said before, is the sort of director I most admire. For a start, he doesn't direct actors. He expects them to know their craft and is equally impatient with amateurs and hams. Secondly he's a specialist in action and outdoors work. He once said that he always preferred location assignments because it took him well away from front office interference. Hathaway ran a tight unit, turning out the movies he wanted to make in the way he wanted to make them. He had an eye for natural scenery, and could see its dramatic and story possibilities. Weeping Meadow is just that. The hill country in Shepherd is both brutal and supremely picturesque. Of course it's the script's large array of bizarre, vividly realized characters, plus the unusual setting in which they move, and the age-old conflicts which they generate (particularly Youth against Age, Idealism against tainted or even repented Experience, Freedom and/or Libertarianism against Authority) which has propelled The Shepherd of the Hills into such firm favoritism with present-day cultists. The movie of course has these qualities. But it has something else which is not so popular to-day and which indeed, both when the novel was written back in 1907 and throughout its various film versions, was the main reason for its existence. It has a spirituality, a supernatural element, a discussion of the Two Ways, a depiction of the classic struggle between good and evil, and the power of Light to overcome Darkness.
The Shepherd of the Hills
The Shepherd of the Hills
A mysterious stranger arrives in the Missouri hills and befriends a young backwoods girl. Much to the dislike of her moonshiner fiancé who has vowed to find and kill his own father.
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April 7, 2019